A Letter to My Children

My kids,

As I write this letter, we are living in a very interesting time. Even though you are 4 and 2, you have both learned how to say “coronavirus” and “COVID” and have heard your mommy and I use the word “pandemic.” You know that your preschool is closed, that Daddy has been working from home rather than going to the office, that we can’t go visit Grandma and Grandpa right now, and that we watch church at home instead of going into the building. You can tell us to stay 6 feet apart and quickly name and identify our governor and state health director, thanks partially to what you know about the news but mainly to the silly video we showed you in early April where someone parodied an old TV show theme with different words and animation to be about the pandemic in our state.

Your mommy and I don’t directly expose you to the news from the grown-up world, but you do a better job of understanding the important parts of the pandemic than many adults. You understand that your great-grandpa with heart problems could get really, really sick if he got COVID, and that that’s why he has to stay in his nursing home room by himself. You know to wash your hands when you come in from playing and to sing the ABCs while you do it. Daddy’s immune system is still recovering from treatments last year, which makes it easier for me to get sick with things like this coronavirus, and you understand that and are doing your part to try to help me stay healthy. Letting our groceries, mail, and everything else that comes into our house sit untouched for 3 days before we handle it makes perfect sense to you, just like not touching things other people might have touched when we make our occasional trips outside the house. Also, as much as you want to go back to school or play with your cousins, you seem to understand that we can’t do those things right now because we need take care of both our family and all of the other people around us. It might surprise you two, but many grown-ups are having a lot harder time understanding these things than you are.

I don’t know if a miracle will happen, but I like that you keep adding “Go away, coronavirus. Go to the South Pole!” to the end of your prayers at night. I also appreciate, my son, that you don’t want coronavirus to go to the North Pole so that we can keep Santa from getting it. Thanks for thinking of him, too, just like you think about our neighbors, friends, and family.

I’m really proud of both of you right now. We have been home for 2 months now, and you two seem to be thriving. Yes, you fight sometimes, but most of the time you both play really well together. I love to see your imaginations at work, even when I want to sit on the couch but the cushions are currently built into a fort/tent/cave/animal den/delivery truck/gate/space station. I appreciate how much you both like to help your mommy and me with the ordinary things we have to do all the time like cleaning or cooking or picking up your toys. I also appreciate how you help me to step out of the seriousness of the grown-up working world by convincing me to run around in the backyard with you on a sunny spring day.

My son, you are now 4, going on 5. I continue to be impressed by how much you like to look at books and how good you are getting at recognizing words and starting to read on your own. Your interest in most everything, from math to outer space to dinosaurs to science has no limits, except when you’d rather take a dance break or run around the house in your shoes “training for a marathon.” I love your vivid imagination and your limitless curiosity, and I hope you never lose them. When Mommy and I seem to be tired of answering your questions, there is a good chance that we’re actually most tired of things from the adult world asking us questions at the same time. We try out best to interact with you, your sister, and the other grown-ups who need us, but sometimes we feel overwhelmed and tired too. Don’t lose your curiosity because of this, and don’t stop asking those questions. We want you to keep understanding and learning, and we always will.

My daughter, you turned 2 in the time we have been staying home. We had your Elmo birthday party over a video call, and you clearly thought this was pretty normal, even if the all of us grown-ups seemed a little thrown-off. We have stayed home for two months now, which is 8% of your life after birth as I write this. I know this is normal for you, and I also know that when you grow up you probably won’t remember this time. That’s ok. All the pictures we have taken will help you understand, and the deep bond you are developing with your brother will last your whole life. In this time we’ve been home, you’ve changed from a young toddler to an older toddler. You’re learning to use the potty, and Mommy and I will continue to give you that chocolate chip you ask for when you go if you keep heading toward not needing diapers anymore. I love how well you speak and how much you like to play pretend by yourself or with your brother or with one of your parents. You are developing a style all your own, and I won’t stop you from wearing your favorite sparkly shoes around the house, even if you are wearing them over your footy pajamas. You are a confident and smart little girl with a vivid memory, and I love watching you grow (even though it means you are getting heavier and heavier when I pick you up).

Kids, I hope you both know how hard your mommy is working to take care of you and me right now. She has cut her work hours back so that she can play with both of you while I try to work in my home office for most of the day. She is continuing to think of fun things for the three of you to do together, and whether it is a science experiment, making artwork for friends, baking a special treat, or reading a book on the iPad, she puts a lot of effort into trying to keep things fun for both of you and her. Please try to be kind to her throughout the day. Also, remember that it is ok to do things Mommy wants to do during the day, like taking a walk in the neighborhood when the weather is nice. Your legs aren’t too tired for the walk (I just saw you running around a minute ago), and she’s good about bringing you a snack and a water bottle.

There are a lot of grown-ups talking about opening up restaurants and churches and offices right now. People like restaurant owners and our priest and office managers are having to make some hard choices. They want everyone to stay healthy, and they want to be open again too. I know you trust all of us grown-ups to do the right thing. I hope that all of the grown-ups can trust each other to do the right thing too.

Lots of grown-ups like to talk about life “getting back to normal.” When they say this, they usually mean life being like it was in January or February this year, with things like your preschool open and us going wherever we wanted whenever we wanted to. You both seem to understand, though, that “normal” from the past isn’t actually a real thing and that everything is always changing. Just like you both keep growing and moving to new car seats and classrooms, the grown-up world is always changing too. This COVID stuff is one of many things changing the grown-up world in a big way. Some things may not be as good after this pandemic, but many things will get better. Your mommy and I have been talking about how for a lot of grown-ups, this pandemic is kind of like having a new baby. Everything changes when you bring home the little baby from the hospital, and everybody has to adjust to a “new normal” instead of the “old normal.” The “new normal” with both of you has turned out to be great, and I wouldn’t want to go back to the “old normal” where we didn’t have all four of us.

I don’t know when your preschool will open up again or when you’ll be able to play with your friends or when we’ll go visit your grandparents next. I do know, though, that even when things seem silly like they do now that God loves us and is with us. He will take care of us, and we need to keep doing things to take care of other people too. That artwork you made for our neighbors and friends is really helpful. Talking on a video call to people we can’t go visit is too. Keep being kind to each other and to everybody else. Keep growing and learning and playing and exploring. You both are doing great, and I am very proud to be your dad.